Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Rwanda Prayer List

I'm leaving for Rwanda on January 7 and as I prepare I wanted to ask anyone who takes the time to read this short blog post to pray for me and Mark (my pastor).

In Rwanda we will be teaching at an international Apologetics conference, visiting a genocide memorial, teaching in the local church, connecting with local pastors and much more (I hope eating amazing food makes the list).  We're traveling with Come and See Africa and excited for this opportunity.

Here are the top 5 ways you can pray for us while we're gone:

  1. Pray for God to use our teaching time to honor Him
  2. Pray for safe travels (planes, cars and anything else we may ride in)
  3. Pray for relationships to form that are mutually encouraging 
  4. Pray for God to open doors that may be closed
  5. Pray for our families while we're away
If you want to add something to the list it would be our health to remain strong!

Thanks for praying; I'm excited to share what God does. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Preaching to Murderers

My mind has been bothered lately... I think my soul has too.

Let me explain this to you and how it came about.  See in about a month I'm going to Rwanda with my pastor.  On our trip we'll be teaching at an apologetics conference and preaching in the local church.  As we've been prepping for our trip my pastor read a book titled Mirror to the Church: Resurrecting Faith after Genocide in Rwanda.  After reading the book he passed it on to me and I read it; here's what I learned.

Before Europe conquered Africa and divided up the land Rwanda was lead by a king.  The king has three leaders over three different aspects of life: Military, Livestock and Agriculture.  The leader of the Military could be a Tutsi or a Hutu, the leader of livestock was always a Tutsi and the leader of the agriculture was always a Hutu.  Once Belgium came in they were under the assumption that the Tutsi's were better leaders because of their height, lighter colored skin and positions they were currently holding.  Therefore they promoted the Tutsi's and educated them more, leaving the Hutu's out to farm.  The Belgians also brought identity cards with them solidifying the segregation.

Years of this segregation created an undercurrent of frustration in Rwanda that climaxed in April 1994 with the genocide.  In the genocide 800,000+ people were murdered, read that line again: 800,000+ people were murdered.  Estimates guess that 20% of the nations people were killed in the genocide.  No country intervened for months, if I remember correctly it was about 100 days of killing.  The Hutu's were fed-up and started killing all the Tutsi's because: their skin was lighter, they had livestock and they was a different nostril flare.

Now before you try to separate this emotionally and put some rational behind the killing you have to remember the majority of the killing was done with machetes.  I've never killed anyone, but my first choice wouldn't be to use a machete.  A machete would be an intimate way to kill someone; there is very little distance and you would become closely acquainted with you victim.

Now you have to add a layer to all this senseless killing.  The killing wasn't done by a country to invade another country.  The killing wasn't done with bombs and snipers.  The killing was done with machetes who killed their neighbors.  People who were being killed would say things like: "John (fictitious name), how come you're doing this, you're my neighbor."

The genocide in Rwanda was neighbors killing their neighbors with machetes.

If you're still reading then your interested in where I'm going.  I'm guessing that when I preach in the local church, most of the darker skinned men, and maybe women, over the age of 38 have killed someone.  The disturbing facts of group evil are at play here.  Something an 18 year old male is unwilling to do on his own, he is willing to do in the company of other men his age: group evil.

I can't get the words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount out of my head:
You have heard it was said long ago: "Don't murder" but I tell you anyone who even thinks about hurting their brother or sister has committed murder in their mind. Matthew 5:21-24 (my translation)
I shouldn't be surprised that I'll have an opportunity to preach to murders but its been messing with my brain.  The reality is we've all committed murder in our mind, the people I may or may not get to meet acted on the thoughts.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Rwanda Bound: Prep

Last week I started really preparing to go to Rwanda.  I've shifted a lot of my mental focus to preparing for this trip.  I've slotted time on my calendar to ready myself.  I'm started studying my material for preaching in the local church and creating material for the conference we're teaching.  I also went and got my shots (not my favorite) at the hospital.

About 3 months ago I called my doctor and found out what I needed to update for shots to prepare for my trip.  Last week I went to Kaiser to pick up my prescriptions and get my shots up to date for my trip.  I started by going to the pharmacy and picking up my prescriptions that were called in.  For the trip I needed to update my Typhoid vaccination, tetanus shot, get malaria pills and bring an antibiotic just in case.  While getting information about my prescriptions I learned Typhoid is not a shot anymore but a 4 pill oral vaccination.

As the pharmacists was explaining my prescriptions she suggested I go to the third floor to get my shots before they closed.  I quickly headed up where I was the last one in to get my tetanus shot and they talked me into the flu shot.  The conclusion of that: my arm hurt for three days.  I went back downstairs and my prescriptions were ready.  I got the Typhoid pills, malaria pills and an antibiotic for any stomach problems that may arise.

Overall I'm pretty much ready (physically) for the trip.  I'm going to start my Typhoid vaccinations next week and will take the malaria pills about a week before we leave.  Thanks for your prayers for my trip; I really appreciate it!

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Confessions of a Pastor: Happy Holidays?

The Holiday's are an amazing time of the year!
We spend priceless hours with our families at the table for Thanksgiving.  
We get extra time off at Christmas to spend with family members we haven't seen in years.

So how come the holiday's are still so tough for me?

You can ask my wife and she would have a kind response to how I struggle so much with the holidays.  I've noticed how my attitude changes around Thanksgiving and I've been examining my life to get some answers.  I'm pretty sure why the holidays are so difficult to me has to do with my childhood.  

While most of my friends were hanging out at their house with their parents, eating family meals, opening presents and going snowboarding I was probably sitting in a car heading to my dad's house.  As I've processed this I'm realizing how coming from a broken home was so tough on me.  I want to make it clear I am not writing this to bash my parents; I love my parents.  I am writing this to share my personal struggles with the holidays.

I thought that when I gave my life to Christ this would magically change... it didn't.  There are some years that are better than others but like clockwork at the end of November I get these unexplainable feelings inside.  I get unsettled feelings.  I go back to my childhood and wish I was able to experience normal holidays (if that exists).

Now that I've pinpointed the issue I've been able to work on it.  As the Holiday's have started I've seen my attitude change, its happening again.  

This year I'm aware. 

This year I'm praying more about my attitude.  I'm thanking God for my family.  I'm asking God to help heal the unexplainable feelings inside.  The best part is being married to Charity.  She has taught me more about the joy of Christ during Christmas than anyone else I've ever met.

Merry Christmas! 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

CORE Gathering

How do you get your leaders into the room for a time of worship, teaching, fun and installing deacons?  You call it a CORE gathering and feed them all food (at least that's what we did).  After school started in the Fall we decided to do something we've never done on our own at our Foster City Campus.  Our other campus' have done a CORE gathering and we've done an all church CORE gathering but this was my first time leading one so I wanted to share my thoughts:

For our first CORE gathering I knew I was going to need my entire team involved.  I needed to get their buy-in as much as we needed to get our campus involved.  We took time at our weekly staff meeting to plan the entire service order.  I knew we only 2 hours of our people's time and I wanted to get our staff leaders involved in the night; we have an amazing team who is so talented it would have been unwise for me to not get them involved.

As we were planning our CORE gathering our team decided we needed some time to worship together.  We started the night with a fun game and after laughing we took time to worship the Lord together.  Many of our leaders are serving during our worship service so they may not always get to join in worship through music.  Looking back on the night worship was a huge part of making the night a win!

This was my major concern for the entire night; we had a lot riding on the night.  When you introduce something new you have to make it worth people's time.  To be strategic we planned it on a night when the Niners weren't playing to help us out.  Honestly I was nervous.  I knew a lot was riding on me since I had a 15 min slot to provide the leadership training for the night.  We had 150+ leaders there and I wanted to have a training that was applicable to Children's Ministry and Worship Ministry leaders.  Looking back we made the night a win by making it an amazing night.

Before my teaching we installed new Deacons and prayed for them
To help us out we planned to serve dinner.  Incase everything else failed we would still have dinner to send them off with a fully belly.  The dinner was just icing on the cake!  We served dinner and slotted 30 minutes for ministry leaders to connect with their team, pray together or provide additional training.

Looking back on the night we had a huge WIN!
Thanks team for all your help!
Thanks volunteers for being so amazing!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

San Quentin Preaching Class

On February 14, 2000 I walked out of Vista Detention Facility in San Diego County; I actually ran once I made it to the parking lot

On Friday October 25 2013 I willingly walked into San Quentin State Prison

It was an interesting feeling to willfully walk into a prison.  After making the 45 minute drive I was escorted in by Dr. Chris Foreman who teaches a preaching class to nine inmates through Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.

Upon entering San Quentin we stood for a few minutes to allow me to adjust and get a bearing on what's around me; to realize I am in a prison.  We headed for the chapel where we greeted a few men; one man was anticipating my visit and greeted me by name.

While the preaching class started I had an opportunity to have a conversation with a man who less than five minutes into our conversation told me he has been in prison longer than I've been alive; it was a sobering thought to process.  I had a wonderful conversation with this man and learned quickly he has been a follower of Christ for the last 30 years.  I was impressed at the hope this man has in Christ; the joy he has deep in his heart.  This man once lived his life one way, met a man named Jesus Christ in one of the darkest places in America and now is a changed man (Ephesians 4:22-24).  At the conclusion of our conversation he asked how he could pray for me: I was humbled.

During the preaching class I had an opportunity to interject some of my thoughts/experiences from preaching over the last decade.  The class lasts for three hours and after the break it was my turn to preach.  I preached a 15 minute message and afterward the inmates critiqued my message; it was rough getting critiqued but I think I handled it well.  They picked apart my entire message: introduction, text, Biblical application, transitions, big idea, exegesis of the text, tone of voice, influx, cadence, closer and much more.  After it was all said and done I passed!  I got a 96.5 on my message.

Our three hours were complete and it was time to head out.  After passing through the entry way; with two doors to keep you in.  As we left I casually asked the guard how many visitors come in daily, his answer was "about 100".  As I jumped in my truck the first thing I did was to call my wife to let her know I was safe.  It was a humbling experience to have donuts in the morning with my girls, preaching in San Quentin and head home.  This trip was great for me to help some guys become better preachers but a humbling experience I needed.

Three things I'm taking away from this experience:
1. I am a blessed man
2. I was encouraged by the incarcerated church
3. Going to prison is a humbling experience

Monday, October 21, 2013

Good People Still Exist

If you've been discouraged with the world lately at all (maybe you've seen: the government shut down, school shootings, war, disease, or death) then you need to read this because it helped me!

Earlier this month our family went on a vacation to Disneyland (the happiest place on earth).  After spending approximately 10+ hours in California Adventure our Sophie asked for a toy.  Now we're not the parents who buy our kids everything at Disneyland.  In fact, we may be the opposite.  We bring in our snacks, drinks and lunch.  We want to buy them a treat while we're there and even will splurge on a stuffed animal.

Sophie had been doing an amazing job.  Leah wasn't feeling well so I had been carrying her most of the day.  As we approached the world of color Sophie had seen someone carrying a Bullseye toy (think Toy Story).  We headed over to the boardwalk to find one.  As we entered the first store, bullseye, there she was!  Unfortunately it wasn't the one Sophie wanted.  We were told we could win one just down the way, so off we went.

We found the game where you can win bullseye.  Unfortunately we were too late, they were closing the carnival style games.  This is about when Sophie lost it and began crying (remember, its past her bedtime).  As we approached the world of color we saw a man carrying the Bullseye horse she had been looking for, it was hanging out of his backpack.

I approached the unknown man and asked him where he got it.  He told me he won it over on the boardwalk.  I shared how it was closing and this was the only thing Sophie wanted.  As he looked at the 5 year old on my shoulders he took his backpack off, removed the fluffy horse and it handed it to the beautiful blonde on my shoulders.

I pulled out my wallet and tried to give him money to which he refused, so I tried again and he refused again.  He was so generous and even excited to give the horse to my daughter.  He even told us he was giving us his 13 year old daughters toy he had won for us!  WHAT!!! ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?!?  A stranger just gave me a toy he won for his daughter and wouldn't take my money.

That night I learned another lesson from God.  The lesson of: you have not because you ask not.  Sophie learned a lesson too: there are still good people in the world.  She doesn't know about all the crap happening in our world but she knows a complete stranger gave her something she longed for.  The question I ask myself now is: "How do I give to others to make sure good people always exist in this world?"

Monday, October 14, 2013

Rwanda Bound

Gosh, I'm not sure where to start this post...

Life is a journey... I want to go where God leads me!

In a few short months I will be traveling to a small Africa country that was torn by civil war and genocide.  Most people would think I'm crazy for going there and some are right; I am a little crazy so I want to invite you to journey with me as I go Rwanda Bound!

I guess the best place to start is to give you the info I know as of now.  You should never journey alone, so I'm not going on this journey alone. I'll be traveling with my pastor (Mark Mitchell) and we'll meet up with Chris Foreman, founder of Come and See Africa, once we're on the ground.

We're slotted to help teach a conference on Apologetics (how to defend your faith) in a local college in Butare (south of the capital city).  We're expecting about 125 students from four countries to be at this conference.  After the conference is over we will preach in two local churches.  From what I understand; I'll preach in one church while Mark preaches in the other and then we swap for the second service.

What I've learned with trips like this is: be flexible.  I still need to get my shots and malaria pills but wanted to invite you into the journey with me!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Bringing Up Girls /// Book Review

Title: Bringing Up Girls

Author: Dr. James Dobson

Pages: 285

Publisher: Tyndale

Recommend: Emphatically YES

Quotable: "You will make the difference in your daughter's life." (Page 20)

This is one of the books Charity asked me to read about 2 years ago, with seminary and moving I wasn't able to read it until recently.  In fact the book was so confusing, impacting, interesting and life changing I stopped reading it after 8 chapters.  Yep, I stopped reading it!  I took a month break from the book to think about, process and apply what I'd been reading.  Once I felt like I could pick it back up again I grabbed it and restarted reading the book.  Its not a short book, but its a great book!

Here are some major themes I took away from the book:

My daughters need me
Coming from a broken home I have a skewed view of parenthood.  I'm not saying my view is completely incorrect, I'm not saying my parents are bad people; I am saying I've never lived in a home with a set of married parents (beside my home today).  Dobson takes the time to explain, throughly in this book of how important my role is in the life of my daughters.

Show appropriate physical touch
The key word here is appropriate.  All too often, from what I read, dads are showing inappropriate physical touch: sexual touch.  My daughters need me to show them appropriate physical touch.  For me, this involves lots of hugs, kisses, cuddling, hand holding and carrying my kids.  Dobson talks about how important my role, as a father, is in my daughter's life and my physical touch will show that.  Working with students for almost a decade I've seen the effects of girls who don't have a dad and boy I don't want my kids to act like that.

Engage, Engage, Engage
There are times I want to run... from my kids.  There are times my kids are: screaming, crying, whining, and having a tantrum (I have normal kids even though I'm a pastor).  When they act like this I want to leave; just being honest.  I have actually given myself time-outs before and taken walks to clear my head.  Dobson shares about how important it is for dads to engage with their kids and not push them away.  Dads, we need to engage our kids all the time, frequently and when its tough!

I've recommended this book to so many dads.  If you're a dad go get it and start reading it!  Hit me up if you want to talk about it.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Worst Punishment

I have a confession to make.  My wife knows this sin I struggle with and I want to share it with you; on Saturday nights I watch COPS.  For me, there is something about seeing people get caught for doing stupid things.  It could be the ex-criminal in me or just the need for laughter but I really enjoy COPS.

See in America we have a judicial system with different levels of security and offices to help protect our citizens.  Generally, the smaller crimes are enforced by local police officers and these criminals are taken to county jail where they are released or spend less than a year for a misdemeanor.  As the crimes increase so does the enforcement of those crimes.  If you are arrested and sentenced for a felony, you will typically go to prison for longer than a year.  As the severity of the crime committed increases so does the security around you increase.  Most people think the worst punishment is capital punishment; I disagree.  I think the worst punishment a criminal can experience is solitary confinement.  We were created to do life in relationship and the judicial system knows the worst punishment a person can experience is no human contact.  

You may feel like your Christian life is being lived in solitary confinement; you’re not experiencing fellowship with God or with other believers.  There is something special about having Christian fellowship, but Scripture tells us fellowship is secondary to fellowship with God (I John 1:1-4).  No matter where you are in life I want to share three ways you can break the feeling of solitary confinement in your life:

1) Reading Scripture

2) Time Spent in Prayer

3) Corporate and Personal Worship

What else would you add to break the feelings of solitary confinement?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Your First Interview

Over the last couple months our church has been in the process of hiring for a few roles.  With this I've read through hundreds of resumes, had a good number of phone interviews and even had some Skype convo's with people.  So far in this series of posts I've blogged about: (1) How to write your resume and (2) How to submit your resume.

Let's assume you've written amazing resume, that's no more than 2 pages, and after following the directions to submit your resume you caught the attention of your future employer.  Now lets talk about the next major step in the interview process; you're first interview.  Up till now, let's assume, you've never spoken with the person who's hiring for this role you're super interested in.  Here are four pointers to ruining your first interview and a solid way to never get a call back on the position you're so excited about:

1. Talk Bad about your Church
Your first phone/Skype interview is your chance to shine; think of it as a first date.  At one point in the conversation you will most likely be asked: "So why do you want to leave ...."

Here are two potential responses you can give:
"Well, my senior pastor is completely incompetent.  He doesn't know what he's doing and is killing the church.  We've decreased our attendance by 40% and there's no hope of it stopping.  Our Elders don't know what to do, the ministry is in shambles and I just want out."

Or you could say this:
"I'm a point in my life where God has been stirring in me to look for another place to lead.  I think I've learned the lessons I'm going to learn here and its time to move onto my next adventure in ministry.  Through prayer my wife and I really trust God has another place for us to minister."

Who would you rather hire?

2. Detail the Dysfunction 
When I was applying for a new role there were a few times I explained some of the dysfunction in too much detail.  My wife, graciously, helped me see this and we began using the line: "less is more".  A sure fire way to scare off the hiring team is to detail out all the dysfunction of your current church.  Pastors know ministry is messy, but you don't have to talk about how your friends are starting to leave the church because of the poor leadership you're under. You don't have to share how the new lead pastor has systematically fired everyone on the staff and you're the last man standing.

3. Just Keep Talking
Some of my favorite conversations in life are when I get to say nothing!  If you want to seal the deal of never getting a second interview just keep on talking.  When asked a question, make sure to talk as long as you possibly can.  When the interviewer tries to sneak a comment in there act like you didn't see them move their lips or hear anything from their mouth.  Make sure to talk too much!

4. Question the Leadership
Most likely before you get the initial call you will have been asked to, or you're smart enough to, research the church on the internet.  You may have looked at the staff, read about the different ministries, done some stalking on Facebook or read the church's position papers.  If you want to put the final nail in the coffin make sure to start off the conversation by questioning the leadership of the church or provide a critique on what their currently doing.  This is a great way to make friends and start the conversation off on the right foot.

Obviously these four pointers are completely outlandish, but unfortunately people are having conversations like this right now applying for a role.  What would you add to the list to help you completely miss out on your dream job?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Peninsula /// Year One

Its been just over a year since we moved to the Peninsula; its been an amazing year being back in Cali! Charity and I've never lived in California as a married couple so its nice to be back to our home state.  I lived in Northern California back in my teens for a year and Charity has never lived here.  I figured since we've been in an amazing place I'd take some time to share some of my favorite family memories from this year:

1) Farmers Market

Well Farmer's Market isn't my favorite family memory, but its the first one to come to mind.  I've loved going to the Farmer's Market with my family; I think I like it the most.  I enjoy being able to get fresh fruit, vegetables and kettle corn for the girls.  It's not just the fact of buying the food, but its been some time for me to spend with my family outdoors.  We get to walk around, talk a little, smile, eat free samples and try new food.  I hope our time at the Farmer's Market pays off and helps our little girls have a desire to eat healthy when their older.

2) Monterey Bay Aquarium

When we moved up here we heard great things about the aquarium.  Charity took the girls to meet her sister there one day and it was so cool I knew I had to go.  Just a few weeks ago we had some friends in town, I had the day off and we packed in the Pilot to go to the aquarium.  It was great holding my wife's hand, looking at jellyfish and laughing with our kids.  We looked over the ocean, saw sea otters and touched animals I can't even name.  The aquarium has some really cool places designed just for kids!  I enjoyed watching Sophie and Leah play in these areas and seeing them be hands on with so much!

3) Pescadero State Beach

Now I love the mountains and Charity loves the beach.  The beach is 30 minutes and Tahoe is 3 hours away.  Our daughters love the beach and I get to walk with my wife on the sand.  We've been to many different beaches up and down the coast but our favorite is Pescadero State Beach.  Charity found the beach this summer and its a bit further down the coast than Half Moon Bay but worth the drive.  There are they really cool caves there Sophie and Leah love to play in!

4) Rockin' Jump 
I've only taken the girls to Rockin' jump once, but they love it!  Charity has taken them a few times and they love it!  They love jumping on the trampolines, jumping with daddy and watching me do flips.  This place has a sweet deal on Saturday mornings!  They open from 8am-10am and its only open to kids under 6.  This way our girls can jump around, run, and play in the foam pit without worrying about  big kids hurting them.  Its such a great place to have some family fun here.

5) Giants Game

One day we got free tickets to a Giants game.  It was a night game, so that meant we would have to keep Sophie and Leah up late.  We decided to pack in the car, drive to the city and enjoy the game!  We had a wonderful time watching the Giants.  We got some of the yummy treats available at the game, bought the girls Panda hats (they think the Giants are called the Panda's now).  It was great to be able to be outside with our girls, enjoying the beautiful weather!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Submitting a Résumé

With all the hiring we've been doing at Central Peninsula Church I thought it necessary to blog about how to write a resume; hoping to help some people with the help I was given years ago from a good friend.  Transition in jobs happens all the time; I'm not advocating for keeping a fresh copy of your resume, but knowing how to write one when the time comes for transition.

Now that you're resume is all fresh and ready to submit it to your future employer (think positive) here are a few tips for submitting your résumé:

Re-read the steps for submitting your résumé
In the process I've been in, looking for people, I've often wondered if people even read the steps to apply for the role.  I understand, you're excited and you want to apply for it as quick as you can but slow down.  Read the job description, take some time to pray, talk with your spouse and a confidential mentor about the role.  Re-read the job description and ask yourself some key questions:
* Do I think this role is what I'm really looking for or am I just applying to apply?
* Do I want to live in the area?
* Do I respect the leadership?
* Do they have all you can eat sushi near by?

Once you asked the important questions make sure to follow what the employer is asking for in applying for the position.  If they want your resume and a digital picture; send that and nothing else.  If they want you to call before applying do that.  No matter the role, make sure to follow the directions.  The directions are there because they want to see if you can follow directions if you don't have the job!

Send it as a PDF
When I wrote my last resume (18 months ago) I had a pretty cool layout.  I did some fancy stuff in Photoshop to catch people's attention.  I knew if I submitted resume in a Word document I might loose some of the formatting I had worked so hard to accomplish.  You could have a great font but your future employer may not have this font.  You might have your resume down to two pages but when you send it, somehow the formatting changes and it bleeds into three pages when they specifically asked for two.  The solution: send your resume as a PDF.  You can easily do this in Word or Pages, it only takes an extra 22 seconds and you won't regret the decision of having all your hard work look just the way you intended it to.

Follow up in a week
Its ok to follow-up in a week.  In fact, when you send your resume over let the church know you plan on following up in a week to just make sure they received your resume.  Some churches may have an auto-respond letting you know it was received but I would still follow up.  Following up shows two things:
1) You're really interested in the job (and you think God may be calling you there)
2) You're a person of your word (you do what you say you're going to do)

Now that you've submitted your resume what would you add to this list?

Monday, September 09, 2013

Don't Get Fat Plan

Honestly I wish I had a better name for what I'm about to write about... but I don't

When Charity was 28 weeks pregnant with Sophie I did the worse thing a dad could do; I went on a diet.  Up till that point I had eaten everything with Charity during her whole pregnancy.  I walked into the bathroom one night, weighed myself and realized I was up to 177 pounds (the most I've ever weighed in my life).  I walked out of the bathroom, told her I was going to the gym and started what I called my Don't Get Fat Plan.

The don't get fat plan has three major foundations to make it successful, and I'm about to share all my secrets with you:

1) Portion Control
This is number one for a reason.  Most people don't have self control when it comes to eating.  I can say that because I lost self control for eating in my life and I still struggle with it.  I love to eat a huge dinner with a few sodas and then pack in the dessert but it's not helpful.

The key to keeping at your ideal weight (in my plan) is to have portion control.  You can eat a footlong subway, but you don't need to the whole sandwich.  Next time you're eating a meal and your stomach signals your brain that its full listen.  Stop eating and don't worry about wasting the rest of the food, you can save it for later.

2) Eat at Set Times 
This is number two for a reason.  I have five set times in the day I eat my meals.  They are usually at: 8am, 10am, 12pm, 3pm and 5:30pm.  I can't always eat at these set times but I do my best to eat within 30 minutes of each time.  I eat a normal breakfast, have a healthy snack at 10am, eat a normal lunch, have another healthy snack in the afternoon and then eat a smaller dinner.  Dinner is the culprit for me to overeat at; so you gotta be ready to say no!

Here are some ideas for breakfast:
Home-made smoothie, bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit, waffles with honey, pancakes with mixed berries or bacon and eggs.

Snack options:
Banana (my favorite), dried mangos, raw almonds, apple, apple with peanut butter or chips and salsa.

3) Work Out
I put this last on the list for a reason.  I don't get to the gym five times a week.  I don't do cross fit (although I'd like to try it) and the reality is I'm a dad!  I wish I could get to the gym three times a week but most often its 1 or 2 times max.  I get there for about 60 minutes, do some cardio, work out and do some more cardio.  I don't lag around.  I don't stare in the mirror.  I go to work out.

There you have the basics of my Don't Get Fat Plan.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Writing a Resume

On a cool San Diego evening I sat down with a former CEO of a telecommunications company for help on my resume.  Lets be honest there were a few things I didn't want on my resume (not many people are looking to hire a former drug dealer).  I had no clue what a resume was supposed to look like, what order it should go in, how long it should be or what it needed to contain.  Thankfully my friend, Tom, offered me some helpful advice for my first resume.  Ten years later my resume looks drastically different than it did when I was in Bible College but the principals my friend taught me stay the same.

Over the last several months our church has had a few key positions open up; some were from transition and some were staff positions we added due to our growth.  Open positions means lots of resumes to read.  While reading these resumes I've wished many of them could sit down with Tom and get the same helpful advice I was given; I think 30 minutes with Tom would help most people create an attention grabbing resume.

Since you don't know Tom, let me share some of his advice and some of what I've learned:

Less is More
I know you think having an 8 page resume is going to wow your future employer but don't get caught in the trap.  Tom taught me to keep my resume to one page, yep one page.  I tried to push him to let me make it longer but he adamant against it.  You have to be able to catch their attention in one page he taught me.  I would extend it to two pages, if needed, but if you can keep it to one do it!

When it comes to your resume, less is more.  This is your one chance to hook your future church so don't make your resume too many pages; it gives your future employer a chance to get lost and confused.  You want to WOW your future church right off the bat, not confuse them.

Keep it Justified 
I was 22 years old when I bought my first computer.  It was a Dell computer that I upgraded the hard drive to 4GB, yep a whopping 4GB hard drive.  On my computer I had Microsoft Word.  In Word there is a cool function called "Justified" (this is not the Christian term).  Tom actually had a resume template I used with the paragraphs already justified.  When you use this Justification tool is keeps your paragraphs all looking the same.  Basically it makes your resume look clear and clean.  When you write your resume use this function!

Leave Out Your Testimony
God has done amazing things in your life and you want to share that!  God is working in you and has saved you from some crazy things but don't write out your testimony in your resume.  I wanted to write out my story about a broken home, drug use and jail time because God saved me but Tom helped me see how it wasn't helpful (remember, keep it to 1-2 pages).

If you really think you need to write out your testimony in your resume let me ask you this question: If you were applying at Apple, would you put your testimony in your resume?  If you answered "No" you got the question right.  Use the same logic for your church resume.  When you get your phone interview you will have a chance to share your story with voice influx and passion, not in Times New Roman.

Section it Out
My first resume was not the prime example for sectioning it out well, but Tom helped me clean in up.  When you look at your resume put your best foot forward; this is where sections help.  Do you want your education first or ministry experience?  Do you think your missions work or family information is most important?  You need to decide what is more important to you, create sections and put the needed information into those sections.

For my last resume I went with these sections, in this order:
Leadership in Ministry
Personal Achievements
Skills and Strengths
Mission Trips/ Outreach Experience

I wanted whoever looked at my resume to know my family is the most important part of my life.  After seeing that they could move into the other areas of my leadership, education and experience in ministry.

I'm not saying you have to use all my categories, or keep it to two pages.  You may think a justified resume looks horrible and you are welcome to that opinion.  I'm just another pastoral leader sharing what I look for in qualified people with a vocational call to ministry.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Campus Pastor /// Year One Reflections

One year ago, today, I walked into Central Peninsula Church to start a new leadership role.  I wish I could say I was fully prepared for this role, but I wasn't.  I wish I could say I wasn't nervous the first day I walked into my new office, but I was totally nervous.  The one thing I was confident in the day I started my new role is: God has called me here.  Because God has called me here I want to share some big lessons I've learned in my first year of being a Campus Pastor.

Power of my words
When I was leading in High School Ministry my words had a good deal of weight, so I thought.  This year I've learned the power of my words.  There was a particular occasion when I said a simple yes to one of our leaders.  That yes was put into motion.  It wasn't a bad yes.  It wasn't a yes that anyone would have questioned; I needed to say yes but I learned how important every decision I make is.  Leading at the current level I'm at holds a much larger responsibility than I could have ever imagined.  This year I've learned how powerful my words are.

Team Value 
I've been blessed to work on many different teams in my life: soccer teams, football teams, mission teams and staff teams.  This year I had a huge leap as the one who leads the team.  Weekly I sit around a table with sixteen people who look to me as the team leader.  This year I've learned how important it is for our entire team to feel valued for who they are and what they bring to the table.  I have been super blessed to work on an amazing team and I value them dearly.

The first year can't be filled with all positive things.  The transition didn't happen immediately but it happened.  About six months into my first year our Elders made a tough call and we asked our High School Pastor to resign from his leadership position; that was tough.  At the end of June I was prepping to leave for our High School Houseboat trip when I had a regular meeting with our Children's Director.  During that meeting she pulled out a piece of paper and suddenly, and unexpectedly, resigned.  Transition on any team is going to happen, what matters is how you lead in transition.

When I started at CPC I felt like I was a pretty good communicator.  I had a style I had been using for a while and I never thought I'd change my communication style so drastically.  I like to give a manuscript of my message to my pastor to read before I preach.  One day, as he was leaving the office, I asked Mark if he got the copy I emailed to him.  He let me know he had it.  I quickly responded: "Make sure you're sitting down when you read it because its gonna be so amazing I don't want you to fall over."  The next day Mark gave me my manuscript, bleeding red with all the edits I needed to make.  He was right, it needed to change.  This year I think Mark has helped me become a better communicator.

Lots of Firsts
I've been in pastoral ministry for almost ten years now.  I've experienced many firsts but this year was a year of firsts for me.  From leading out on my first baby dedication, to speaking to over 1800+ people at our Outdoor Service and even having a chance to host the Global Leadership Summit.  This was a true year of firsts for me and it was a great learning experience.  Through all my firsts I was able to form new relationships with people on our Foster City Campus and in the community!

As I reflect on my first year of being a Campus Pastor there isn't much I would change.  I'm thankful our Elders gave me space to learn about the culture and DNA of CPC.  I'm thankful for all the new relationships I've made.  I'm thankful (and humbled) for the new level of leadership God has asked me to lead at.  Last week I was interviewing a potential High School Pastor and he asked me: "How come you're not taking the role, you seem like you would be the perfect fit."  It was nice to confidently respond: "Because God has called me to be a Campus Pastor."

Monday, August 12, 2013

Global Leadership Summit /// Day Two

The Global Leadership Summit is a great leadership event we hosted at Central Peninsula Church.  Here are my bullet point notes from day two (please note, I don't have notes from every session).

Vijay Govindarajan

  • Strategy is about leadership in the future
  • Box #1: Manage the present
  • Box #2: Forget the past (selectively)
  • Box #3: Create the future
  • How do you create the future while you manage the present?
  • Innovation is not just ideas, innovation is commercializing creativity 
  • Innovate leaders need to be humble
  • How are we creatively working towards the future (VG gave the example: if you want to eat fruit in 5 years, you need to plan the tree today)
  • Conflicts are not bad, conflicts are healthy as long as you know how to manage conflict on your team
  • Spend a little, earn A LOT
  • Innovations is about value for money
Dr. Brené Brown 
  • Studies: vulnerability, courage and shame
  • The irreducible needs of people: Love & Belonging (in the absence of Love & Belonging there is always shame)
  • Shame says: "I'm not enough"
  • Love isn't something we give, it something we cultivate (only when self love is involved)
  • We can't give what we don't have (example: courage, sense of belonging or permission for grace)
  • We can't give help when we're scared to ask for help
  • How do we navigate the gap from what we profess to what we practice
  • To find shame you have to shine light in dark places
  • Blame is toxic in organizations
  • Make space for people to fit in; for them to show up and be seen for who they are
  • We are born to be brave
  • You can choose courage or you can choose comfort but you can't choose them both; they are mutually exclusive. 
Dr. Henry Cloud
  • Henry talked through three things that ruin our thinking: personal, pervasive, permanent
  • Don't take it personal
  • The thought process pervades the brain and makes things seem bad
  • When is pervades the brain you think: "it will always be this way" and it becomes permanent.  
  • Think about your greatest accomplishments in life
  • Your life is more than a scene, its an entire movie.  Every good movie has scenes of crisis.
  • Your brain runs on three things: oxygen, glucose and relationships
  • Connect by talking about healing
  • Be in control of what you can be in control of

Friday, August 09, 2013

Global Leadership Summit 2013 /// Day One

Central Peninsula Church is a premier host site for the Global Leadership and here are my bullet point notes from the event

Bill Hybels
  • Don't give back your vision to God
  • Take risks as a leader
Colin Powell
  • Leadership is breaking science to get more out of people than you can
  • In leadership you get no where with out followers who want to follow you
  • Give leaders a sense of purpose
  • Leadership is about followership
  • Give people the resources they need to get the job done
  • Have simple things (sayings) you constantly repeat
  • Take care of your team
Patrick Lencioni
  • Its about getting a job thats not miserable
Things that lead to a miserable job:
1) Anonymity (makes you feel miserable)
* Make sure I show my team I care
* Good people don't leave jobs where they're known

2) Irrelevance (is a job killer)
* If you don't think your job matters its demotivating
* I need to help people find relevance in their ministry
* When someones job is to help us; celebrate that!

3) Immeasurement (no ability to measure your success) 
* People need to know their doing a good job
* Give people another ability to measure their performance

Liz Wiseman
  • Multiplier approach is to let people weigh in
  • Multiplier's challenge people without apology
  • Working for a diminisher is exhausting and boring
  • Working for a multiplier is exhausting and fun!
  • We do our greatest damage when we hold our greatest intentions
  • How do I be more of a multiplier?
Chris Brown
  • Jesus is asking me to give up my title, stage and authority for Him 
  • Call sin, sin
  • Shared leadership is better
  • Make room for other leaders, its not my Kingdom!
  • Our calling has to trump culture
Bob Goff
  • We don't do stuff so Jesus will think we're swell
  • People believe we're our biggest mistake
Mark Burnett
  • NO= Next Opportunity
  • Choose your companions before you choose your road
  • Don't keep energy suckers around
  • Not everybody is the right player on the right team
  • If the person at the top isn't wise enough to hand things off they won't succeed
  • Hire great people & let them do their job (get out of their way)

Monday, August 05, 2013

Love Does /// Book Review

Title: Love Does

Author: Bob Goff

Pages: 224

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Recommend: Yep, read it

Quotable: "I've realized that I used to be afraid of failing at the things that really mattered to me, but now I'm more afraid of succeeding at the things that don't matter." Page 30

My good friend told me about this book he was reading.  Every week when we met he would talk about how amazing the book was; so obviously I bought it.  In the first Chapter Bob caught my attention with his unique ability of story telling.  Honestly, I didn't believe what he wrote to be true.  I thought to myself: "there is no way anyone lives like this."  As I kept reading it became clear that Bob Goff lives like that.

Bob shares some great stories about how people impacted his life for Jesus and how he, in turn, has impacted others life's for Jesus.  The book is so good Charity ended up reading it to me while we had a get-a-way to Tahoe a few months ago.

Bob's stories have encouraged me to live more "open handedly".  Growing up in a home where money was tight I've constantly struggled with money.  After reading Love Does I'm leaving more encouraged to be the person God has called me to be, to be more open handed in life and to be ready to go on the adventures God has put right in front of me.  I'm not going to be perfect but I'm sure going to keep my eyes open to be a part of what God is doing around me!

I can't give you too much but I can encourage you to buy the book, read it and then let's have a coffee and talk about it!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Don't Baptize Students at Camp!

With summer in full swing and thousands of churches heading off to camp lives are going to be changed.  Students are signing up for camp the first day of registration, they are inviting their friends to come to a life changing experience and they are excited for what God is going to do.  Leaders are taking time off of work to pack a bag, sleep in an uncomfortable bed, eat some decent food and expecting God to move in students lives.  Parents have saved all year, they are writing checks, signing paperwork and doing late night trips to Target to make sure their child has everything they need for camp.  Youth pastors have worked hard, created videos to promo camp, invited students who are far from Jesus and are praying for God to move this summer.

It happens all too often.  Camp is going great.  The message from the speaker hits home in a students life.  There is a lake and someone just read Matthew 28:19-20.  Unfortunately, this summer, a youth pastor will take an unforgettable moment away from a parent.  A well intentioned leader will thoughtlessly tell a student they should be baptized.  A student will beg their pastor to baptize them in the location where they re-dedicated their life to Christ.  

In my almost decade of student ministries I never once baptized students at summer camp!

You may think this is a crazy statement to make but I think its a compassionate reality.  Here's why:

Involve Parents in Spiritual Moments
When baptizing students at camp we alienate their parents from being involved in spiritual moments of their life affirming the misconception their student(s) don't need them.  When Rachel calls her mom on the way home from camp and tells her she was baptized mom has her smile on but her heart drops.  Rachel's mom wants to be there with her baby for these spiritual milestones.

Invite Non-Christian Friends
When you wait till your home to baptize students you get an exponential increase for your student ministry.  See when you baptize Rachel at camp she doesn't get an opportunity to invite her 5 non-Christian friends to celebrate with her.  Now multiply that by the 12 students you just baptized and 60 students in your community are now at your church hearing stories of changed lives. BOOM!

Plan a Baptism Ahead
(Students we baptized after our last summer camp)
The best way to solve this problem (my words) is to plan ahead.  Before you leave for camp work with your lead pastor and plan a baptism.  While you're at camp tell your leaders about this upcoming baptism.  After your students give their life to Christ for the first time or decide to re-up their relationship encourage them to get baptized when they get home.  Now you get to have your church involved in their lives, their parents there and they get to invite their friends you may have never met!  

Look at all these wins you get by planning ahead.  The win you may not have seen is people in your church are going to hear the stories of life change and want to be involved with what God is doing in your student ministry.  If you already baptized students at camp this year don't worry, there's always next year.

What do you think? 

Monday, July 08, 2013

CPC Foster City /// Staff Fun

Since arriving at Central Peninsula Church I've made it my mission to help our Foster City staff feel like a team.  There are a few ways I've done this but one main way has been by getting our team doing team things.

Within my first month we did an off-site lunch; something like this hadn't been done in a while.  We loaded up the church vans (yep, I put a bunch of adults in church vans) and headed to a classy restaurant by the name of IN-N-OUT.  This was a great time for everyone to have lunch, laugh and we kept it cheap.

The first time doing something like this can be the easiest, it takes time to make the next ones worth the team's while.  I pulled a page from the playbook of my mentor and our next few team lunches were brown bag in our JH room.  My mentor has shared this idea with me while I was in Vegas as a way to help leaders connect and gain team mindset.

After winter had passed it was time to get the team out for lunch and doing something fun.  Thankfully our Lead Pastor is fiercely competitive and has been bragging about his bocce ball skills!  In early June we headed over to the Foster City bocce ball courts for a bocce lunch.

We slotted a Thursday, a day everyone is in the office, and took our lunch hour.  We meet in the church lobby 15 minutes before lunch to make sure we were all there.  After everyone's accounted for we packed in four cars and drove over to the courts.  Charity, my wife, brought the girls over so they would have some time with our staff also.  This was a huge win having our family there to spend time with our team and it gives our team some time to see I interact with my family.  

The competition was pretty fierce!  We had some good throws and with our Lead Pastor being undefeated it increased the competition level.  Since this was my first time playing bocce ball I wasn't the best person to have on your team.  I did love watching our team bring out the rope to measure and see who was the closest to the ball!

Obviously it isn't about the competition or bocce ball or what we brought in our lunch bag.  The goal is to unite as a team.  I want to work with a group of people who are radically committed to Christ and each other. We have some very capable, qualified, people on this team and our Elders have called me to lead this team.

The reason we have brown bag lunches and play bocce ball is because I believe: the team that plays together stays together 

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

CPC Houseboats /// Fishing

Last weekend I was blessed to spend the weekend on Lake Shasta with my family.  We had a blast (even though it felt like being back in Vegas it was so hot).

Over the weekend we participated in one of my favorite things to do as a kid: fishing!  I brought the girls barbie poles and we were ready to land the big one.  Each morning one of our adult leaders took my family out, on his boat, to go bass fishing.  I'm pretty stoked my little girls enjoy fishing with me.

The big question always comes up when you go fishing: did you catch anything?  I can confess I didn't catch anything.... but Sophie and Leah each landed two fish (i may have helped them).

Each morning I put on my sunscreen and the girls put on their life vests to head out on the lake.  To make the trip even better Charity came out with us (she caught a tan).  Leah was a great help the whole trip.  She quickly found out how fun it was to net the fish (I was a little scared she may fall in but she never did).

After Sophie saw how fun it was to net the fish she wanted in on the action.  They would take turns reeling in the fish and netting them; it was too cute.

I'm always going to look back on this fishing experience with our girls as so much fun.  I'm thankful they want to hang out with me.  I'm thankful they enjoy fishing!  I'm thankful we only went out for about 30-60 minutes each of the two mornings; any longer and my girls may hate fishing.  I'm most thankful for Jon taking us out and letting us use his equipment; we had a great time fishing on the houseboat adventure.

* We released all of the fish the girls caught; we even kissed some to say we're sorry

Monday, July 01, 2013

CPC Houseboats /// Fun

Last weekend I was invited to speak at our church's houseboat summer camp for high school students.  Honestly I've spoken at a few camps but this was a treat to speak for my own church!  I also was able to bring my family with me so this post is dedicated to some of the fun we had on the first day of our houseboat adventure.

We arrived at the dock around 2:30pm and headed to find our boat.  As we walked the line of boats Sophie didn't pick a boat out quickly; she actually saw a huge boat at the end of the dock and decided she wanted to drive the biggest one.  Unfortunately we didn't rent the big boat so I convinced her we needed to find our own boat.

We headed back down the dock and chose boat #91.  After exploring around the boat Sophie and I decided we needed to explore the roof.  The boat was pretty much like an RV on the water with a ladder to the roof.  Since it was a chilly 90+ degrees we obviously didn't stay up top too long.  I love this picture Charity took of us!  I love seeing Sophie smile this big and pose for a picture with me.  I really needed time with my family and the houseboat adventure was the perfect way to get it!

After all the students arrived, the boat drivers were prepped and we were sweaty we headed off!  I'm going to guess it took us a good 2 hours to arrive at the cove we stayed in.  I think it would have taken us less time to arrive there if one of our boats didn't die in the middle of the lake!

Before the boat dying I taught the girls how to drive the boat; by that I mean I told them you don't just turn the wheel in any direction you like.

Leah hung out on my lap and drove the boat for about 2 minutes; I'm guessing Sophie lasted a little longer.  I really enjoyed spending these fun little moments with my kids.  I love getting a chance to minister while hanging out with my family.  I enjoy being able to teach my girls little life lessons while we smile and enjoy the heat!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Confessions of a Pastor: I Manuscript Preach

I confess; I'm a manuscript preacher.

I've actually been a manuscript preacher for most of my time I've been preaching.  The story most people don't know about me is from college.  After giving my life to Christ I was attending a JC in San Diego.  One semester I had a class that was just too tough for me; I couldn't seem to do well in it and had trouble finding motivation attending.  Eventually I dropped out of my public speaking class; it was the only class I've ever dropped.

What I've learned about myself is I prefer to think off the cuff when it comes to joking and conversing with people.  When it comes to matters of the Bible and Theological topics I prefer to have a guide to help me clearly communicate.  For most of my life my manuscript preaching was more of a guide than a manuscript but recently I've learned how important it is to have a manuscript when you preach.

I know guys who bullet-point their message and others who use mind mapping.
How do you do it?

6/23/2013 - Neal Benson | Worship changes us from Central Peninsula Church on Vimeo.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Family Friday /// Happy Hallow

With school being out for summer we are doing something every Friday as a family!  Last Friday we went down to a little amusement park/zoo with the girls called Happy Hallow.  Happy Hallow reminds me of a smaller version of Magic Mountian mixed with some animals from the San Diego zoo.

All of the rides are built for children.  Some of the rides are designed specifically for kids only.  The first ride we rode was their little roller coaster.  Sophie was not about to go on it but Leah mustered up the nerve to and we had a great time (I'm pretty sure she was terrified the whole ride and my knees were crammed).  After the roller coaster the girls drove the cars with the annoying bells and rode the swings.  We went on the family dragon ride and then they hit the ladybug ride.  I was surprised at how short the lines were for all the rides!

After eating lunch we headed to the playground they have tucked amongst the rides.  Sophie fell down and hurt her knee so we had to go get a treat.  With treats in hand we went down to the little zoo and had a unique encounter with the jaguar.  After the jaguar we went to see the lemurs, honey bees and pretty much were ready to move on.

We meandered towards the entrance and rode the carousel; Sophie rode the Okapi, Leah jumped on the Lemur and I tamed the Ostrich.  After an extremely close race we decided it was a tie and headed over to see the zebu (its a small cow).  We ended up feeding: the zebu, two ponies, a donkey and a handful of goats.  Once we washed our hands we decided to call it a day and head back home!

First family friday was a huge success!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Criticism Bites /// Book Review

Title: Criticism Bites

Author: Brian Berry

Pages: 122

Publisher: Group

Recommend: HIGHLY

Quotable: "Instead, when it comes to criticism, we need to think both practically and theologically about how God can use criticism in our lives and how we can learn to respond to it in healthy ways." Pg. 53

I'm no stranger to criticism... and if your have air in your lungs you probably have experienced your fair share of criticism.  I can recall many times in my life that criticism brought me down, almost left me debilitated.  Brian addresses a real issue many pastors are struggling with in the church.  As I was reading there were a few times I caught myself thinking: "I wish someone would have told me that 8 years ago."  It reminded me of situations I didn't handle so well and helped me think about ways I can improve on my leadership when those situations arise again.

See the previous seven years I pretty much only read books related to seminary but not anymore!  When I got Criticism Bites into my hands I thumbed through it and immediately knew I needed to read this book right away (If you know me, I would prefer to do almost anything before I pick up a book but there is something different about this book).  I put aside the other book sitting on my dresser, cleared my TV watching schedule and got to reading.

One thing I really appreciated about Criticism Bites is what's contained in these pages comes from a ministry veteran.  Brian isn't writing this book to just sell another book, Brian is sharing wisdom from his heart.  The best part is the wisdom he shares its super readable and applicable.  When you read this book you're going to think you're sitting at the local coffee shop talking with Brian over a latte.  Brian provides solid wisdom from someone who has been there and done that.  I could go on and on about how amazing this book is but the only way you're going to really learn how to deal with criticism in a healthy way is to shell out the $12 and start reading.

Bottom Line:  If you have ever experienced criticism in your life, you will know how much it bites!  Brian brings the truth of God and practically ministry experience to this book that I'm going to call a must read for every person in ministry!

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Family Game: Giants vs Blue Jays

(Selfie with Leah) 
Last week we went to our first Giants game as a family!  Now it would have been great if the girls sat through the entire game but that didn't happen! Even though it didn't happen we still had a great time (and great seats).

We packed up early and headed to the city.  We parked down the street and walked up the ball park.  It was great seeing Leah's face as we approached the park.  Charity had the best idea as we walked up; she suggested we enter the ballpark dugout to get our girls Panda hats (she's a genius).  We found them right away and also found out we could enter the park right there.  After cutting through the massive crowds we finally found our seats.

Sitting this close to the action was a huge blessing for us; it kept the girls engaged a little more than sitting in the nose bleeds.  The first two innings were the most exciting.  Tores hit a home run that went over the fence in right field and the crowd went ballistic!  I grabbed Leah (who was sitting on my lap) and started cheering with her held high in the air; needless to say she loved every second of that.

(Charity and Leah drinking hot chocolate) 
Eating: cotton candy, pretzels and hot chocolate helped to make our first Giants game even better!  Even though we choose to attend a late game, break all our bedtime rules and keep our kids out super late we had an amazing time.  We walked a few miles, cheered loud, took our kids to rid the coke slide and had a wonderful time as a family.

I'm convinced that spending time, like this, with my family is one of the best investments I can make into them.  I'm not trying to advocate for me to take them to more sporting events but I'm trying to remind myself about how excited they were.  I'm trying to remind myself that getting time with my family, like this, is a huge investment to show them how much I care about them and how important they are to me!

Love you family.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

George Muller; Man of Faith and Miracles /// Book Review

Title: George Muller; Man of Faith and Miracles

Author: Basil Miller

Pages: 159

Recommend: YES

Quotable: "I have served Satan much in my younger years, and I desire now with all my might to serve God during the remaining days of my earthly pilgrimage."

It seems safe for one to ask something like: "Neal are you really reading a book about a man from Europe who was born over 200 years ago?"  To which I would answer something like: "Why, yes I am!"

This is a book that I have read a few times and every time I read it I am encouraged.  The short story goes something like this:  George Muller lived a life uncommitted to God until one day God radically grabbed his heart.  George was attending seminary and preparing to lead a church.  Seeing the state of the local church he decided to pray and see what God could do through a life fully surrendered to Him.  George then founded an organization that helped thousands of orphans (yep, thousands).  He sent millions to missions and got millions of Bibles into the hands of people who were far from God.  The best part is George never asked for a penny from anyone and prayed in every dollar.  After he died (over 90 years of age) the ministry continued because he empowered leaders to lead.  This is a man who really trusted in the Lord for everything!
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight" Proverbs 3:5-6 
My take-a-way from this book is something different.  This book encourages me to seek the face of God for all my needs.  When I live in a culture that doesn't respect trusting in God it makes me want to see God show up more than ever.  George reminds me that God loves to answer the requests of those who are fully devoted to Him.  I want to be more devoted to Him.  I want to live a life that requires faith; a life that is not answerable by human intellect.

If you're looking for a book that shows a life devoted to God in prayer and faith order this right now!  Next time you think you're prayers don't matter to God think again.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Confessions of a Pastor: I got acceptance issues

This is obviously a tough one to write about because it hits a core need I believe we all have.  You can call it whatever you want to call it: being connected, fitting in, having a place to belong, being cared for and the list goes on.  The bottom line is we all want to be accepted.  I want to be accepted.
I'm not completely sure when my acceptance issues started but I would initially venture to guess it has something to do with childhood.  It could have been: my parents divorce when I was young.  Maybe it happened in Junior High when I desperately tried to fit in with everyone else so everyone wouldn't realize how messed up we are were.  Did it happen in High School when I wanted to be like people who I thought were cool.

I spent hours trying to locate the exact time in my life my acceptance issues began.  As much as I tried to figure out the problem on my own, I decided it was time to turn to Scripture to solve my issues.  Then I found this:
'This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the Lord.
I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,"
declared the Lord.  Jeremiah 31:33,34
After hours, days, weeks, even months of searching I'm pretty sure I found the problem.  The problem that I face with acceptance is I am constantly looking to my left and right for acceptance.  For so long I tried to find acceptance from people who could never meet my needs.  The people I was looking to be accepted by were also looking to be accepted by other imperfect people.

I was looking at the things around me to accept me and I fail to look to the God who created me.

Now I wish that I could say every day I remember this truth... but there are days I fail to remember.  There are days I fail to remember how much God loves me.  I fail to remember that Jesus died on a cross for my sins.  I fail to remember that because He died I don't have to look for acceptance from others but that He accepts me for who I am.

My acceptance issues now lay in the hands of a caring God who accepts me for who I am.